So this is it: after weeks of negotiations in the wake of the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement being rejected, we finally know what exactly has been agreed upon: an agreement that does not change the wording of the backstop, but which supplements it. Now it is up for MPs to make clear their views.
In the hours following the release of the agreement, it has been poured over by numerous legal experts, including the ERGs legal team (the ‘Star Chamber’), the Attorney General, the DUPs legal experts and numerous others, including Lord Anderson. We are still awaiting the response from some, but from what has been said so far a clear picture is emerging.
The new deal, in my view, is only limiting the risks posed by the backstop, and does not remove them entirely. We now have the right to seek an ‘arbitration’, in the event that we want to leave and the EU is stopping us. In reality, however, this is problematic. It means that we still do not have the right to leave the backstop unilaterally, and instead have to seek permission. When MPs voted for the Brady Amendment, which specifically outlined that Parliament wanted the backstop replaced, I do not think that they had this in mind. It involves us maintaining good faith with the European Union over the backstop, but, having been on the Brexit Committee for years, I have learned that this is a leap of faith at best. Any risk that we can be forced into maintaining the backstop, even when we choose to leave it, is simply too big. Based off what has been heard so far, it also appears that the majority of legal opinion agrees with me: this new negotiation makes a bad deal slightly less bad, but still deeply flawed at best.
It should also be noted that there are other issues as well, ones which have effectively been side-lined due to the developments on the backstop. Ultimately, even if this deal were to pass in its current form, we will still be subject to decisions from the European Court of Justice – decisions which will directly impact on our laws and subsequently, our sovereignty.
Additionally, we must still pay the European Union £39 billion just for the right to leave. This appears to have not even have been discussed as part of the renegotiations, despite both myself and a number of my colleagues having expressed concerns over it. This is money that could be better spent in the UK, and yet we would have to hand it over as part of the deal.
Ultimately, I understand that this is a momentous vote, and one which may very well define both the Prime Minister’s premiership and Brexit as a whole. The decision that myself and my colleagues make cannot and should not be taken lightly. It is important for us to look and listen to all of the arguments, and decide accordingly what we believe to be best for both our constituents and the UK as a whole.